of Integrative Medicine
April 22, 2021
On May 20-22 we will be hosting the 2nd Annual Advances in Mind-Body Medicine Conference, a virtual CE/CME event designed for healthcare professionals interested in using integrative mind-body approaches to providing patient-centered care. In the lead up to the conference we will be sharing some insights from our speakers on what drew them to integrative medicine, and their perspective on health and the future of health care. In this first installment we spoke with our keynote speaker, Dr. Austin Perlmutter*, board-certified internal medicine physician and co-author of Brain Wash.
Q: How has your perspective on health changed in the last year/since COVID-19?
A: In so many ways, COVID-19 has exposed our pre-existing issues. This led me to think about the virus as though it was an opportunistic infection. These range from inequality to the true state of our underlying health. It's a wakeup call that highlights the consequences of psychological stressors on our wellness and a clear indicator that immune function is not some background concern we need only occasionally worry about. I wrote about this in an article for Medium called: The Coronavirus Took Advantage of Our Weaknesses.
Q: What's one thing you feel more people need to understand about medicine?
A: There's lots of talk about the importance of preventive medicine and the need for better frameworks applying evidence-based prevention. Typically, much of the blame for poor preventive care falls on the healthcare system and the providers. But I think it's essential we understand that our modern environment is simply not set up for us to be healthy. It sabotages us at every turn with the food, media and messaging we're exposed to. When it comes to the subject of prevention, we have to raise awareness around this fact and start to build structures (at a personal, local, and societal level) that enable healthier decisions to become the default.
Q: What's an area of medicine where you feel new connections are being made that will transform practice?
A: When looking at medical care as a whole, I feel the divisions between organ systems and diseases are quickly becoming less discrete. I think this is especially relevant as it relates to brain health. We now know that immunity, hormones and gut-related messaging influence our brain function, and that our cognition and mental health are a reflection of the biological health of our brains. This means that all the signals coming into our bodies, be they through psychologically stressing media, foods, or even relationships are acting on pathways that affect every aspect of our physiology, including what happens in our brains. I think it's a time of incredible expansion of our understanding of what were once siloed "diseases" into an appreciation of the myriad systems involved in our health which will translate into better therapeutics and certainly more empathy for patients.
Q: Tell us a little about your conference presentation, “Moving beyond blame: Using lifestyle neuroscience for behavior change”
A: Preventive medicine has been repeatedly highlighted as a way to mitigate the worldwide epidemic of chronic diseases. But despite the best efforts of providers, patients often fail to adhere to lifestyle interventions necessary to avert, lessen or reverse diseases. These instances of noncompliance are often seen as willpower failures or some other character deficit. Yet research across scientific disciplines has made it clear that our ability to make healthy choices reflects far more than "willpower." Our decisions are biologically driven. They are a representation of brain inputs ranging from microbial metabolites to microglial cells to hormones, all of which act on networks of neurons which together create our choices. Appreciating this fundamental science leads to a dissolution of the conventional blame and judgement that we tend to place on those making "bad" decisions, and opens the door to curiosity, empathy and a far more scientific approach to health-related behavior change. In this presentation, you'll see that it isn't the patient but rather the conventional model of decision-making which is failing us, and you'll see how lifestyle neuroscience can allow for an empathy and science-based approach to behavior change.
Register to hear Dr. Perlmutter and other integrative health experts at the second annual Advances in Mind-Body Medicine CME/CE Conference here.
*Dr. Austin Perlmutter went into internal medicine wanting to help people avoid and even reverse chronic, largely preventable diseases that are today’s top killers. Over a multi-year collaboration with his father, David Perlmutter, MD, they researched the overlap between brain mechanisms of decision-making, diseases and lifestyle interventions and their book, Brain Wash. He has since made it his mission to educate medical and non-medical people alike on how we are misinterpreting what actually goes into our choices, and how we can better bridge our current actions with our future outcomes using evidence-based biological and psychological frameworks.